Take Control of Your Confidence

You may think that the title of this post sounds a little strange.  “How do I take control of my own confidence?”  Many musicians wait for the performance to begin, to see how they start to perform before they decide whether they feel good or whether they feel confident today.  Yes, you read that right—I said “decide.”   You, and you alone, decide on and are alone responsible for your own confidence level on performance day!   I define confidence as the strength of your belief in your ability to perform specific skills and to perform, in general.  The kind of confidence you want is strong and stable and not dependent on the particular circumstance you find yourself in.

“As is our confidence, so is our capacity.”

In order to take responsibility for your confidence, remind yourself of the reasons you have to strongly believe in your abilities.    A written list of these reasons is what we call a confidence resume.  We discussed preparing a confidence resume in  Improving Self-Confidence for Musicians (click this title for a great description).  Your confidence resume will include all of the reasons you can believe in and trust your preparation, skills, and performing ability.  It is often difficult to turn our focus toward these positive things about our performing, but we can get so focused on what’s wrong with it.  It seems that the reasons to doubt and fear come much more easily to many performers.  Work at it.  Take the time to really reflect on the reasons you have to be confident.  You may be surprised. Reasons could include:

  • “I practice diligently!”
  • “I’m a great musician.”
  • “I  work to stay positive and focus on the process.”
  • “I love to perform.”
  • “I am committed to do whatever it takes to be the best I can be.”

The next step in taking control of your confidence is to be aware of the doubt that creeps into your mind and erodes the confidence you do have.  Doubt is enemy number one to a confident mindset.   Your goal is to recognize when you have doubts and to develop the ability to turn your doubts into statements of confidence.  You can think of it as rebutting your doubt, or reframing.

In order to reframe, you will want a clear understanding of your doubt, for example:

List the specific doubt:I usually don’t perform well in auditions.  I hate auditions!  I hope I don’t mess up today.”

Reframe of this doubt: “I am the same guy/gal on this stage as I was in the practice room earlier today or as I was in rehearsal.   I trust my practice!  I trust my preparation! “

When you begin to look for doubt, listen to the way you talk to yourself.  Look out for statements that start with, “I hope…” or “I wish…” or “I try…”.  These are often doubt statements.  Work to identify the specific doubts you have and reframe each one.  Prepare by anticipating the doubt and having a reframe or a rebuttal ready for action!  Review your confidence resume regularly to remind yourself of the reasons you have to be confident.  Remember,  high confidence precedes performance and doubt has no place in your pre-performance routine!

It takes courage to exert your will over doubt and fear.  Feel free to share your courageous and confident statements with us or tell us a little about the doubts that you deal with.

Next time, we will take a look at how you can incorporate mental rehearsal into your practice and pre-performance routines.

If you haven’t already, subscribe to my site by checking out the free mp3:   5 Mental Strategies for Peak Performance in Auditions, Competitions, and Concerts.  You will receive a monthly newsletter and tips to keep you performing at peak levels.

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  1. guy wilson says:

    Dianna, I like this article and the one on mental preparation/practice. For years I have encouraged my students to use mental practice visualizing there entire performance of their recitls, seeing in their mind the entire process, walking out onto the stage, bowing, relaxing and singing through the entire recital beautifuly. Some students do this and some refuse, but I do believe that visualizing can be very beneficial to many singers. I have helped some singers overcome performance anxiety by teaching them some relaxation techniques and helping them visualize their performance much as some hypno-therapist do with patients. Best regards, Guy

    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Guy, thanks for your comments. It is so important for musicians to know that they have control over how confident they “choose” to feel. Mental rehearsal or visualization is a great way for performers to feel empowered. I’m sure your students are happy to have a teacher who is familiar with the mental side of singing. Hope you check in again, Diana

  2. guy wilson says:

    I have used visualization and mental practice for years with my students; I find that it helps many of them to overcome performance anxiety and actually perform at a higher level. Mental practice and mental preparation are important keys to a successful performance. Guy

  3. Again, thanks a lot for your articles. I think your ideas are exactly the issues I’m challenging with these days.

  4. Ben Lempka says:

    I am currently a bassoon performance major and I struggle tremendously with performance jitters. I practice the pieces near-flawlessly in a practice room and with the expression I envision in the piece but as soon as it nears my performance time in front of all the department faculty and students, anxiety creeps in. I read your previous article about a Performance Confidence article and I really appreciated the advice you gave in that article as well as this one. My first performance my leg shook uncontrollably; the second performance was better in regards to anxiety but I was sweating bullets the entire time. I think the more I perform the more these jitters will begin to disappear but I want to thank you again for this article. Are there any “tricks” or things you say to yourself during the performance that helps you relax?

    Thank you,

    Progressing Bassoonist – Ben

    • Dr. Diana Allan says:

      Hi Ben,

      Thanks for your comment and question. I am so pleased that you have benefited from my articles. Many performers, as you probably already know, experience performance jitters so you are certainly not alone. Many, like you, perform very well in low-stakes situations like practice and lessons, but experience anxiety, physical symptoms, and even fear performing in front of an audience. I wouldn’t say there are any “tricks” to relaxing and performing more confidently, but there are definitely effective strategies—mental, physical, and practice—that you can learn to help you perform better under pressure. You may want to start by asking yourself what is the difference between performing in the practice room and performing in front of “all the department faculty and students”? What do you think about in both settings? Your answer(s) will be key to discovering your thought process about and the expectations you place on yourself when you play and perform. Keep us posted!

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